What is network management?
Network management helps to provision, monitor, secure, operate and maintain an organization’s data transfer channels
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What is network management?

Network administrators manage a network using skills, processes and tools to ensure network resources—such as the hardware, storage, memory, bandwidth, data and processing power available on the network—are made readily accessible to users and services as efficiently and securely as possible. For example, an organization's IT staff may prioritize access to processing power and memory on the network for mission-critical applications versus less-essential or nonessential applications.

An organization may outsource some or all aspects of network management to a managed services provider (MSP) to free up internal IT staff or when in-house network capabilities and expertise are limited. An MSP may manage basic network access and transport services like local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) lines, as well as manage more complex connections like those found in a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) network.

What is a network management system?

You may also hear or see the term "network management" used to reference the IT system administrators and network operations centers (NOCs) use to perform provisioning, configuration management, fault management, performance management, security management and other network management tasks.

While network management refers to the tasks administrators perform to maintain and secure a network, the network management system—also known as network management software—is a tool that the administrators use for performing those tasks. More specifically, a network management system collects real-time data from network devices and gives administrators a central point of control where they can govern network security policies, allocate network resources and more. For example, a network administrator can set a failover policy for mission-critical applications to automatically switch to memory from a backup location should a network disruption threaten primary service access.

Network management systems enable:

  • Proactive identification of network issues, often using AI/ML capabilities to detect patterns in network behavior, as well as to quickly detect and respond to network issues that occur
  • Monitoring of resource allocation and network security
  • Accelerated troubleshooting through a single point of control over network traffic and for performance management
  • Network automation that removes the need for human intervention in repetitive work such as network configuration management tasks and upgrades
What are examples of network management tasks?

In network management, tasks include:

  • Pushing software updates to devices across the network: Depending on the capability of the organization’s IT and the network management system, updates can be pushed to devices that are integral to the operation of an enterprise network—such as routers—as well as end-user devices that include printers and phones
  • Performing network maintenance: Network maintenance involves performing tasks necessary to fix issues as they occur and upgrade software and hardware vital for the continued operation of the network
  • Network performance monitoring: Network performance monitoring is done to ensure optimal performance, continuous performance of network resources
  • Identifying security threats and addressing network vulnerabilities: Network administrators monitor the network for signs of potential threats or breaches and use AI tools that alert them to attacks or possible security risks, which can then be mitigated or prevented. Types of network security threats include ransomware and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Some examples of network vulnerabilities include hardware that wasn’t installed properly, insecure passwords and exploitable design flaws in an operating system
  • Enhancing network security: Enhancing network security includes tasks such as creating firewalls that block suspicious activity on the network and the enforcement of multifactor authentication (MFA)
  • IP address management: Network administrators maintain an inventory of unavailable and available IP addresses needed for devices that reside on the network. They assign and unassign IP addresses as devices are provisioned or de-provisioned from the network. IP addresses are sometimes assigned dynamically through a dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) server, which is often found in large enterprise networks
  • Network provisioning: Network administrators will provision a network infrastructure with IT system resources such as bandwidth and transport channels (cable, broadband, 5G, LTE, satellite, etc.) to enable access between users, end-user devices, IoT devices, applications and data at desired performance levels
  • Setting network access controls: This is done to regulate how devices on the edge and applications in cloud environments access data via the network. For example, an access control may be in place to prevent sensitive data from being transferred over the network into a public cloud environment
What is a network management protocol?

A network management protocol defines the processes, procedures and policies for managing, monitoring and maintaining the network. It is how network administrators acquire and view information from a network device regarding availability, network latency, packet/data loss and errors via a network management system.

A network management system can also collect information from devices automatically through a network management protocol for automated tasks such as updating software or performance monitoring. Examples of network management protocols include:

  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)–an open standard protocol that queries each network element and sends responses to the system for analysis
  • Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP)–a TCP/IP network layer that provides troubleshooting, control and error message services
  • Streaming telemetry–a protocol that transmits key performance indicators from network devices to the system in real-time
What are the benefits of network management?

The benefits of network management include:

  • Network visibility: Network operations and engineering teams use network management systems for centralized monitoring and performance visibility of their networks and hybrid cloud environments
  • Unplanned downtime detection and prevention: Network administrators can use AI monitoring tools to detect potential outages and either prevent the disruption from taking place or set failover policies that redirect traffic and resources
  • Performance optimization: Through the increased visibility and access to network performance data that network management systems provide, network operations and engineering teams can make informed decisions that result in greater network efficiency, cost-effectiveness, availability and security. Additionally, a performance-optimized network is also likely to contribute to an improved user experience due to decreased latency and response time and improved availability


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